I started packing to move across the world at midnight last night. That gave me approximately nine hours to pack up my entire life to move from Iowa to Taiwan for this next school year. Needless to say, I was under-prepared. Why would I wait until the last minute to get my life together? The simple answer (aside from being a notorious procrastinator) is I was scared. I thought moving across the country to go to WWU was a big step, but moving across the world is maybe a little bit bigger. I don’t know anyone in my program, I don’t know what my room will look like when I get there, I don’t know how hard classes will be, I don’t know Mandarin. This is scary. Even more than that though, I am monumentally excited. I get to live on my own in a foreign country for an entire year. I get to immerse myself into a brand new culture that I know virtually nothing about. I get to meet new people and experience things unique to Taiwan. I am fully prepared to come out of this program a completely different person than who I am right now, with new experiences under my belt and a new outlook on life and the world as a whole. I’ve been writing this little post during my layovers in various different airports and all I have to say is I keep getting even more excited with each plane I get on taking me closer to my final destination of Taichung.
Post Program: Study Abroad Takeaways & Post Program Reflection
What were some of your biggest takeaways from your international experience?
I feel as if I have grown so much more as a person. I feel fearless, not afraid to move across the world. I have found a new confidence in myself that I don’t think I could have received any other way. Putting myself out their and just saying “why not?!”
What advice would you pass along to other interested students considering studying abroad?
My advice would be save as much as you can. This was an experience of a lifetime and I hope others can create the opportunities I had.
Is there anything you would do or plan differently based on your experience?
The only thing I would change about my experience is budgeting myself better. It is hard for me to regret anything when I had such an amazing experience. I wouldn’t trade it and will hope to continue to use this for future growth. I’m going to be paying it off a little longer than intended, worth every penny.
Have you considered going abroad again or researching international internships and careers?
Yes, when overseas I was constantly looking for businesses I could work for in the future. Every time I went into the city I would look at the names on the big buildings to see if I could see myself working there.
How do you plan to “Pay it forward” to the greater local community?
Pay it forward is one of those things I try to accomplish daily. As a post study abroad student I hope to share my experience with others who want to study abroad as well.
In reflection of your experience before, during, and after your program, can you put into words what this experience has meant to you.
I would like to say I could put this experience into words but I don’t really know if I can. So far when friends and family ask me I manage to say “It was good”. Yes, it was way more then good. I just kind of lose my words in explaining it. This is why I kept to making Go Pro videos to documents my experience. If you would like, go check them out on the rest of my website.
End of Program: Preparing for Re-Entry & Maintaining your International Connections
What I have missed most about the United States?
I feel really bad for saying I don’t miss much about the United States. Beside friends and family I have really created a life for myself over here. Although, I do miss iced Americanos the one time I asked for one they gave me the weirdest look and couldn’t really understand what I was asking.
What I will miss about my host country when I return?
I’m going to miss so much about Australia. So much I might as well bullet point it.
– Vanilla coke where ever I go
– Mint Slices
– Sarcasm in every conversation
– Sunshine all the time
– Cheap ‘Yellow Tail’ Wine
– The people
– How student orientated the University was
– And so so so much more.
Will I experience reverse culture shock when I return?
Yes, I’m really not ready. I’m coming home in the middle of December and I have been told it’s snowing. If you can imagine my face it resembles grumpy cat.
On the plus side I get to return for holidays and be close with my family and eat a lot of comfort food. I don’t think a warm Christmas would have the as effect as a Washington Christmas.
Plan for how I can immerse back into home campus life and share experience with family and friends?
My plan to immerse back into home life is to embrace the holidays as much as possible. Going back to Western will be different but I only have a quarter left. Knowing that and all the opportunities I have ahead of me keeps me going.
I keep telling myself “This is not just a time in my life.” So I have already started planning and some of my Australian housemates have already started their plans to come visit me.
How do I plan to keep my study abroad experience as a key factor in my life; maintaining friendships, language skills, staying internationally engaged?
Well abroad I tried to make the best of it I could. I got in contact with different Australian companies and keep in contact for opportunities. This way I can have better chances when looking for my first major job after graduation. Especially to maintain my International Business’ side of my future career. I also have all my housemates and Australian friends on ‘Facebook’ and ‘Whats App’ to all stay in contact.
Due to Australia being a English speaking country, holding onto language skills wont be much of an issue. I will most likely be going around saying “Keen”, “Motorbike”, “Mate”, and “bits” a lot. But I hope to either be traveling back soon or keep exploring other countries in the future.
Studying abroad has been one of my absolute favorite experiences and I hope other people had the same rewarding experience that I had.
Mid Program: “A day in the life”
The best part about my time in Australia would have to be the people I have met. I am lucky enough to be living with all Australian Housemates in a student share house. My House is only a 10 min. walk from campus or 5 minutes by bicycle. My house is situated closest to the ‘Shortland’ side, which is where all my classes are.
Every morning I wake up to the sound of Australian birds. Kookaburras, Cockatoos, and Magpies. The only downside was magpie swooping season. If you are on a bike they will dive-bomb you. Happened to me a couple time, definitely not the happiest of experiences.
I wake up, go have breakfast with my housemates and watch the You-tube channel ‘Good Mythical Morning’. Then I either catch a ride with one of my housemates or ride off to school on my bicycle. In Australia classes only take place twice a week. Luckily for me I was able to only take classes on Tuesday and Wednesdays. Most Wednesdays I would meet up at the coffee shop ‘Gloria Jeans’ with some of the other American and Australian friends I had made on campus. It turned into a weekly thing. Each time someone brings someone new and by the end we had a pretty large coffee group.
So far I’m extremely happy with the goals I have set for this experience. Living with all Australians I really got to experience their culture and how they talk and live. You wouldn’t expect such differences between Australia and America, but they’re actually a lot. My housemates and I even had an argument on how to say simple words like ‘Parmesan’.
Interested in Studying at Newcastle, Australia ?
For more advice on connecting with the Australian culture I would check out my ‘Once you get here’ post. I listed out different clubs and opportunities for anyone else traveling abroad to take advantage of.
Once you get here: Tips – Study abroad Australia
Once you get here:
Get a SIM card for an Australian number
SIM cards abroad are fairly cheap. Global plans through your home service tend to be garbage with service. I bought a pre-paid sim through ‘Optus’ for $30. That gives you 3gb of data and unlimited calls and texting for 28 days (the month). Sims can be recharged and data usage can be tracked right through the Optus app. They’re other companies that also have pre-paid sims; such as Vodafone, Amaysim, and Boost. I’m sure there are more, those seem to be the most common.
If you are going to UON they actually sell the sims on campus. Plus the campus has wifi available everywhere, so if you are on campus you won’t use to much data. Sims are also available at any grocery store.
Tip: Make sure your phone is unlocked!!!! I thought I bought an unlocked I Phone through AT&T, but turns out the phone is not officially unlocked until you are done making phone payments. Luckily I only had $120 left to pay, but due to the complication of that I had to sit on the phone forever then wait 48 hrs for my official unlocking to happen so I could use my new sim. Getting around without a phone and trying to find some where to live is not easy without a phone. So double check, then triple check.
2. Open a bank account
You will need to open a bank account for when you get here. An Australian bank is almost the only way you can pay rent at both the University and Off-campus living. Luckily UON has a bank right on campus, ‘Commonwealth Bank’. You can get set up easily and call your bank back home to transfer money in.
Tip: All of Australia now uses ‘Pay Pass’ and all of our American Cards make you sign for purchases. Australia is not used to this so buying anything took so much confusion. Luckily I found out that once I set up Apple pay on my phone it wouldn’t make me sign for any of my cards and let me use self check out.
3. Walk around University and familiarize yourself
Go to the student accommodation weather you live on or off campus. They are overly helpful and will tell you where to go in order to get set up with a student ID , and accommodation struggles, and basically anything you need. Their staff even took a me to the grocery store to get everything I needed. SO HELPFUL! So take advantage of the help, it made life in the first week so much smoother then some others I have talked to.
The university has 2 bike-hubs on campus. These are places you can rent donated bicycles for the semester for basically free. You pay 60 dollars, choose a bike and a helmet and once you return it at the end of the semester you get your 60 dollars back. It’s great, I wish my home university did something like this.
5. Get to know campus clubs and groups
Clubs and activities were a great way to meet people at the University. You didn’t even have to go to meeting or anything, it was basically sign up for an event and show up. I was able to go to a Aussie Bush Camp, Sydney Harbor boat cruise, Wine tasting, and so much more that I didn’t even think I would be able to make time for.
Clubs to look into:
University of Newcastle International student community :
This group is for international students at the University of Newcastle, Australia. https://www.facebook.com/groups/UONsem1/
Student run University club affiliated with the University of Newcastle, that aims to provide a social platform to enable both International Students and Domestic s
udents to connect with one another. https://www.facebook.com/groups/639171419551938/
The University of Newcastle’s International Leadership Experience and Development (iLEAD) Plus Program is an extra-curricular Leadership Program that enables you to participate in additional activities on top of your regular degree studies. It gives you the opportunity to build skills in the areas of leadership, international awareness, social responsibility and employability. https://www.facebook.com/ilead/?fref=ts
Before You Leave: Tips for study abroad UON
Decide if you would like to live on-campus or off campus. If you would like to live on campus, apply AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!! Unlike the United States, Australia has all age groups living on campus. This makes on campus accommodations a difficult thing to obtain if you do not apply early enough.
*Tip: You do not have to be officially accepted to the University of Newcastle to apply for housing. If you wait for your full acceptance it will be very difficult to obtain on campus accommodations.*
I live off campus and I love it. This is the house I’m currently staying in and I’m less then a mile from the University. Plus, I have all Australian roommates and am paying way less then I would be on campus! If you would like to hear about more events and possibly meet more people, on campus might be for you. But I’m incredibly close with all of my housemates and still know plenty on campus. So its really up to you and the experience you make it.
If you don’t want to live on campus wait till your arrival to choose a student housing option. Things may seem like they are nice in photos or seem within walking distance. But once you get here you might realize they are not what you thought. The university’s website has a database of options from local realty and will help you get set up to do showings.
*Tip: Student Accommodations office is amazing! Keep calling student accommodations if you don’t hear anything. A couple of my friends here were able to get on campus just by constantly bugging the office.
University of Newcastle is well…. SLOW to fully accept you to the university. In order to apply for your Student Visa you will need a CoE (Confirmation of Enrollment number) given to you once you are fully accepted. I can see why it would be easy to get stressed by waiting for full approval. All I can tell you is DO NOT STRESS, once I was able to apply for my visa it was approved the very next day. Link to online visa application
Enroll in Courses
Make sure you enroll in courses before you leave to Australia. Classes can be competitive especially if the ones you need for your degree are specific. Oh one more thing, if you are studying abroad at Newcastle you will be at the Callaghan campus. A lot of people I was with accidentally signed up for classes that were at the other campus that is 2 hours away. Then had to resign up for classes after the realization.
Picking flights is really up to you. I did a multi-city option on Kayak.com. I am stopping in Thailand on the way home from Australia for ten days. This only added $50 dollars to my ticket, which is awesome. Also being from Seattle, Washington I decided to fly out of Vancouver, Canada. Being a international airport I was able to find a straight flight and my tickets were cheaper with the Canadian dollar being weaker when I purchased my tickets. Also try the website www.skyscanner.com they post the best deals and tell you if you should book or wait for a better price.
The struggle of packing your life into 2 bags for living abroad six months is a struggle. I am a huge procrastinator! Don’t overly worry about it. Just know most of the things you can get in Australia and its not as overly expensive as everyone say it is. Basically just clothes, bathroom needs (Make-up is very expensive so bring that), a camera, computer, and a backpack. Take what you want to pack and cut it in half.
Arrival: Host Country & Culture Immersion
◦ What are your favorite things about your host location thus far?
There are so many things to love about my new life here in Australia. I have been so lucky in meeting the people I have. Everyone is incredibly nice; manners seem more natural for people rather than America.
From originally being afraid about where I would move and who my roommates would be, I am extremely fortunate on where I found to live.
Food here in Australia is relatively similar to the US. I think I drive my roommates nuts though. When every we go to the grocery store i’m sure I look lost as I spend 5 min looking at bread because I don’t know what the ‘Good’ brand is. Everything here is a lot fresher and it is exciting to see the small differences in things.
-Pineapples don’t have the crowns left on
-Celery has the shrub left on top
– Powdered Sugar = Icing Mixture
– Corn Flour = Corn Starch
– Baking Soda = Bicarb Soda
– Popcicles = Ice Blocks
– Bell Pepper = Capscium
– Cookies = Biscuits
– Cotton Candy = Fairy Floss
– French Fries = Chips
– Cilantro = Coriander
– Gyro = Kebab
– Fish Sticks = Fish Fingers
– Sprinkles = Hundreds and thousands
– Jam= Jelly
– Jelly = Jello
– Ground beef = Mince
– Cantaloupe = Rock Melon
– Cheap boxed wine = Goon
My roommates are going to take me on a Australian Food shopping trip so I can try everything, even Kangaroo. I will post a video soon.
I got to Australia in their winter. They complain it is cold but back in Washington I would be wearing shorts. I would rocking shorts here right now, but I continuously get stared at like I’m crazy.
◦ Tell us about the university, academic experience, the classes, student life, and clubs or activities you are involved with? How are the locals, are there any differences or similarities that have surprised you based on your expectations?
Did you experience culture shock when you arrived in your host country? How did your expectations about your experience compare with the reality of your day to day life? Is there anything you wish you would have done or researched more to better prepare you for your experience?
University of Newcastle and Student Life
I LOVE going to school here in Newcastle. UON have amazing opportunities for their students.
At the University they have Bike Hubs where you can rent a bike for the whole year for about 50- 80 dollars. Once you return the bike back you get your full rental price back. So basically a free bike rental. Once you rent a bike you get to store it in locked buildings where they have bathrooms, showers, hairdryers and lockers to store your bicycles.
UNSEN (University of Newcastle Exchange Student Network)
UNESN is for anyone interested in going on student exchange, who has previously been on a student exchange, or any students currently on exchange at the University of Newcastle from an overseas. They aim to bring all students together in a fun and social environment through a range of different activities and events.
I have been able to sign up on different events and meet multiple people. So far I have been able to take a trip to the Hunter Valley and do a wine tour, A weekend camping trip to the Blue Mountains and take a Sydney harbor cruise. The opportunities have been great and make it easier to international students to see Australia well they are here.
The program is designed for students to gain experience and skills in the areas of leadership, international awareness, social responsibility and employability through activities and dynamic workshops. The program aims to help students be Career Ready, Locally Engaged ~ Globally Aware
And Socially Responsible.
While I am here I have been able to join the program and make something exciting by completing a program while I am abroad.
On Campus Accessibility
On campus we have a Bank, an Insurance company, medical, print center, pharmacy and multiple food places. This makes is great when living near campus and not having a car. Everything I need is on campus. When I got here instead of having to figure out how to get place to place I was able to open my bank account, buy a sim from the on campus store, and make sure my abroad insurance was in place.
The Locals and Culture Shock
Everyone here is great!!! I cannot say how much I love it here. I didn’t actually experience much culture shock due to the similarities to the US being relatively high. I did have kind of a difficult time understanding what my roommates were saying in the beginning, but now I have already picked up on slang and always accidentally say it to my friends back home. They have no idea what I’m even saying. Although, I am not really experiencing culture shock, I do feel like I might have a difficult time with Re-entry. I would have never expected to like it so much, I was worried about not liking it and having a hard time in the beginning but my expectations have been blown out of the water. I’m enjoying the sarcasm everyone has here because that’s how I am as well. Its odd to say that I already feel like I’m missing Australia and I haven’t even left yet.
When it comes to preparation I feel like I did pretty well. They’re is really only so much you can plan for and fit in your suit case for 6 months abroad. My only thing is I wish I would have known about my phone not being unlocked even though I purchased an “Unlocked” phone. But hopefully I can help others as I share this now.
◦ What do you hope to gain and how much research have you done on your host country and culture that will better prepare you for this experience?
The preparation for study abroad was very difficult. You only can prepare for an experience like this so much. This is pretty difficult for me when I myself am a huge planner. I was watching non-stop YouTube Vlogs and reading Blogs so I knew what to expect or at least tried. I even tracked down people who had studied abroad in Newcastle before, just so I had an better idea.
◦ What are you most excited about? What are you most scared or nervous about?
I’m most excited about emerging myself into the culture of Australia. I have always wanted to go to Australia and the idea of living in another country is exhilarating. Having always wondered if I could just get up and move to another country, and now I have the perfect excuse.
I am quite nervous to try and find somewhere to live. University of Newcastle is very competitive when it comes to on-campus living. Currently I have no place to live once I arrive, and according to student services I should wait to find a room to rent until I get to Australia, in order to see the house in person. So, as of now I’m going to get off the plane and say “Now what?.” I know I will be more organized then that, but at the moment I don’t feel like it. Must be the nerves talking.
What strategies have you implemented that will allow you to overcome these challenges and take full advantage of your opportunities?
To prepare for Australia I have set up my hotel for the first three days in order to make sure I have somewhere to go once I arrive. I also have tried to make a check list of things I need to do once I arrive.
– Find somewhere to live
– Set up bank account
– Buy Sim Card
– Get all student info and identification